Day 17–Dye II

May 31, 2010 7:35am

16 hours and 232 kilometers covered the team reaches DYE II

DYE II camp at first light

N66°29.538 W46°18.662 Elevation 6957 Feet

Looming in the distance, about 30 clicks away, was Dye II. A mere point on the horizon, this abandoned military building has been a reference target for distance in the first phase of our trip. Upon packing the camp this morning, it stood 232 kilometers away, a distance we had optimistically hoped to reach in two days. After just over 16 hours of hard and fast travel, we would reach it in a day!

This was a classic travel day. The kind that goes on and on, yielding perfect conditions that feel will never end. Having waited for wind all night, I woke up multiple times to the subtle shake of the tent’s fabric. All false alarms. By 7 AM, the shaking grew steadier, slowly at first, but settling to a 16-20 kilometer breeze. We rigged up the big Yakuzas (Eric on the 14 meter, and me on the 12 with 50 meter lines), and by 9:30, we were off. With a dark blue sky, and not a cloud out, the sun was pounding the ice, softening the already reduced sastrugi. With music in the helmet, and a consistent wind, we flew over the friendly terrain. Abiding only by natural laws, fully sustained with the sledges in tow, the sense of freedom in this context is hard to describe. It feels like a flight into the unknown, riding into the new horizon of a post apocalyptic movie. A cross between a bird flight…and Mad Max!

We barely stopped for the first five hours, and by then had covered 120 kilometers! Settled on a perfect broad reach, the distance felt almost effortless. The kites glided up and down, to the rhythm of the music, as if in a perfectly synchronized dance! By mid afternoon, the winds had pulled back to 12 kilometers per hour, and on that tack, we struggled to keep the kites in the air. Once, with both kites limp on the ground, we almost quit for the day.

With a bare whiff however, we managed to raise them up again, and settled on marginal speeds for the next few hours. “Still better than pulling”, I kept repeated myself!

By late afternoon, the conditions grew to 25 km/h, and with those kites, on that tack, we were jamming! For almost three hours, we flew with speeds in excess of 40 kilometers per hour, without stop.

The GPS distance reading to DYE II kept shrinking, enough to turn us into believers! By midnight, amidst the frigid temperatures of the setting sun, we saw the point sticking off the horizon!

Standing erect, like a monolith, it is odd to see a structure–or for that matter, a feature–when, for days, there has been nothing but sky and ice.

DYE II is a structure built by the US military as part of the DEW line, a ballistic monitoring system established during the cold war. It has been abandoned for more than twenty years, but remains, more or less as was built, in the middle of the ice sheet. After satellite observation made this type of set up obsolete, the infrastructure was used for scientific purposes for a few years. It now stands as a relic of time, very much a post apocalyptic vision in the great whiteness.

As the winds grew into the night, we downsized to 10 meters, and reached our objective at 1:30 AM, having covered 232 kilometers for the day! We are now cold, famished, and exhausted. We will explore the site after a night to rest our sore bodies. What a day!

3 Responses to “Day 17–Dye II”

  1. sophie says:

    Very impressive how conditions can change one hour to another, one day to another!

  2. Basile says:

    Just like in StMalo : every seasons in 24hours… Except the snow!

  3. TMAC says:

    bravo, nice to see winds conditions are favorable to the thrill aspect………right on brother, i love the positive attitude, stay in the mix, keep the wind in your sail and not in the tent..d’oh

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